Spring typically includes traditions, rites of passage, milestone events, annual celebrations and shared experiences like graduation, prom, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day weekend. These are times, in my experience at least, when people come together to celebrate. However, due to COVID-19, spring (and summer) 2020 have been notable for its stay-at-home orders, rapid news stories and roller coasters of emotions. Days and weeks have seemed to drag on, run together and speed by all at once.
Until recently, in my own miasma of anxiety, I failed to appreciate that we are experiencing COVID-19 both alone (in our own living spaces, in our own heads, in our own emotions) and as a collective. Blair Braverman, a nonfiction writer, adventurer and dogsled racer, put it succinctly in Outside magazine, writing, “the one thing we are all experiencing together, looking out our separate windows, is the world operating at a different speed.” I don’t know about you, but I find it reassuring to be reminded that I’m not alone, even in feelings of loneliness and boundedness.
From the window of my new makeshift workspace, I have watched the snow pile up during mid-March storms and have envied neighbors enjoying walks during sunny April afternoons. Some days have sped by – I simply could not email, talk or work fast enough to keep up with our rapidly changing world; other days seemed to last entire months within the bounds of breakfast and dinner. Perhaps you have also experienced these changes of speed?
My window has also afforded me the opportunity to observe the FedEx, Amazon and United States Postal Service delivery drivers – and learn more about my neighbors’ online shopping habits than I anticipated! Recently, as I watched the day’s deliveries arrive, I reflected upon a story Hugh Weber (@hughweber) shared via Twitter.
His 11-year-old daughter, Emerson, wrote a thank you letter to the family’s USPS mail carrier. That mail carrier shared the letter with his supervisor, who in turn shared it with the author of the internal USPS newsletter for the western United States. The Weber family has since been inundated with appreciation, notes and mementos from mail carriers across the country who were touched by Emerson’s kind words. Hugh described the experience as meaningful to his family, but also believes it resonates deeply in the current shared moment of COVID-19 we find ourselves in:
“We’re all in a moment of physical isolation that is amplifying a real epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression. [However,] it is relatively easy, if we take the time, to give others the one thing they need to be well – human connection. I have a friend that says we all just want to be seen, known and loved.”
If you need a reason to smile today, or perhaps even get a little teary-eyed, read Hugh’s full thread here.
So while my spring 2020 did not include a graduation ceremony (last year’s included two), a Mother’s Day brunch out, a Memorial Day picnic or even the Indy 500, I’m discovering new, small, daily traditions and rituals. I’ve come to recognize the small but no less important milestone events. I find joy in drinking tea every morning, in waving at the delivery men and women each day. From behind face masks and at a distance of 6 feet, I’ve learned the names of all the neighbors – and their spouses, children and pets. I know when the Goldendoodle down the street will go for a walk, and I’ve relished watching the trees bud and the daffodils bloom.
As we head into summer 2020, I sincerely hope you find ways to make and enjoy human connection, participate in shared experiences and develop new traditions of your own.